Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 16 October 2004

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Q. I am a lady d’un certain age. I am by repute convivial, kind, obliging and an excellent bridge player. Unfortunately I have introduced three very boring women to each other and they insist on playing very bad bridge with me. At the end of each afternoon they produce diaries to fix the next date. How can I avoid them without seeming rude?

Name and address withheld

A. I am delighted to be able to offer a life-enhancing solution to this problem. Charlie Hunter, of the recently launched London Bridge Club, with whom I have discussed it, informs me that potential new members are welcome to come to his club for free trial lessons. Therefore why not tell the ladies you are going to have a lesson to improve your own game and invite them to join you on a foray to this ‘Annabel’s of bridge clubs’, with its exquisite Mossop Street SW3 premises and Pierre Frey-upholstered back-supporting chairs? The membership is eclectic and

newcomers’ skills are assessed in minutes by one of the resident tutors. Soon the ladies will find themselves at tables where others of

compatible competence are already playing. Once the ice has been broken and they have their feet in the door, with membership at only £100 a year and full refreshments available, they are bound to prefer the gaiety of meeting at the London Bridge Club in future and will hardly notice you peeling away from them.(The London Bridge Club, 0207 584 5800.)

Q. Flatmates who refuse to wash up can be a real bore (2 October). You advised poor T.M. to leave washing-up of his own in the sink before going away in order to turn the tables. I have also found it effective in the past simply to leave dirty plates under my filthy flatmate’s bed. Unless he is away for a serious length of time, the scent of rotting food should be confined to his bedroom. If you’re especially upset by his manners, make sure you eat kippers.

J. D., London W10

A. Thank you so much for this very useful tip.

Q. I have two questions. First, when I am the first to show up at a swanky restaurant where I am meeting friends, is it permissible to read at the table while waiting? And

second, I have just got caller ID on my

telephone which displays the name and

number of the person calling. When I know who it is, should I say hello to that person by name when I answer, or should I play dumb?

A.K., San Francisco, USA

A. To your first question, it is considerate, indeed almost de rigueur, to use reading matter when waiting for someone in a restaurant. You will otherwise have to focus your gaze on fellow diners, thus making them feel uncomfortable because they feel sorry for you sitting there bored and lonely — and worried that maybe your prince will never come. If you are communing with literature, or even newsprint, they can

continue to relax. And to your second question — many people have caller ID these days, but there are equally many who don’t. The latter can feel wrong-footed or confused when robbed of the surprise factor of announcing themselves to their telephonee. Therefore, even when you know who is calling, it is kinder to bite your tongue and simply say ‘hello’ when answering. Play dumb, as you put it.